(Kabul) The Taliban announced on Wednesday that after an attack on the Afghan Defense Minister in Kabul, they would launch new attacks on Afghan government officials while they continued to struggle for control of several large besieged cities.
Posted on Aug 4, 2021 at 6:22 am Updated at 7:58 pm
The attack on the uninjured Defense Minister General Bismillah Mohammadi on Tuesday “marked the beginning of retaliatory operations” against high-ranking government officials for the bombing campaign they ordered, warned Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, in a statement.
The Afghan and American armies have carried out several air strikes in the past few days to prevent the Taliban from advancing into several large metropolitan areas.
This is the first Taliban attack in Kabul on this scale in months. Instead, they had spared the capital after they signed an agreement with Washington in Doha in February 2020 that provided for the withdrawal of all foreign soldiers from Afghanistan.
Two large explosions, including that of a car bomb, accompanied by an armed attack shook Kabul on Tuesday evening, killing eight civilians and injuring around 20.
It took the security forces about five hours to break resistance from the attackers, all of whom were killed.
Meanwhile, many Kabul residents climbed to an appeal on social media, climbed rooftops or took to the streets to support the Afghan forces and shout “Allah Akbar” (God is greatest).
“Civilians as Shields”
Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said on Wednesday that a counterattack by Afghan forces had begun in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province (southwest).
“The operation is being carried out slowly and carefully as the Taliban use people’s homes as refuge and civilians as shields,” he said on Twitter.
After days of fighting, the townspeople tried to flee on Wednesday on the orders of the army.
Civilians have already paid a heavy price in the conflict in Lashkar Gah, a city of 200,000 people. The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (Unama) announced on Tuesday that at least 40 civilians were killed and 118 injured in the past 24 hours.
Over the past three months, the Taliban have occupied vast rural areas and key border posts in a lightning strike in favor of the withdrawal of international forces, which is expected to be completed by August 31.
After meeting weak resistance in the countryside, for a few days they have turned to the large urban centers that encircle several provincial capitals. These cities remain under army control, but the fall of one of them would have devastating psychological effects on the authorities.
The United Nations said it had received reports of increasing civilian deaths and damage to critical infrastructure in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
“Hospitals and health workers are overwhelmed,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the United Nations, during a press conference on Wednesday.
Fighting for several days between the Taliban and government troops on the outskirts of Kandahar (south) and Herat (west), the second and third largest cities in Afghanistan. In Herat, however, the authorities assured on Tuesday that they had begun to loosen the grip of the insurgents.
The specter of a return to power by the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and the end of 2001 by imposing an ultra-religious Islamic regime before being ousted by an international US-led coalition, worries many.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement accusing the Taliban of “instantly” executing soldiers, police and civilians detained in the areas they had recently conquered for alleged government ties.
In a statement on Wednesday, the insurgents accused Washington of promoting an “exodus” by granting visas to Afghans working for the United States in the country to avoid possible reprisals by the Taliban.
The USA and Great Britain have also accused the Taliban of having committed atrocities of “war crimes” in Spin Boldak on the Pakistani border.
Pakistan’s national security adviser, whose relations with Kabul are strained and who are regularly accused of supporting the Taliban, called on both sides to make “concessions” for a peaceful solution.